Scotland’s energy minister said yesterday he believes there is “still an opportunity” for the country to get into the business of building huge floating wind projects, if it embraces some of the technology used in oil and gas.
Trade unions have criticised the Scottish and UK Governments for “missing the boat” on manufacture and supply chain contracts – with the lion share of Scotland’s two floating projects to date being designed and built elsewhere.
Burntisland Fabrication (BiFab) missed out on a deal to fabricate the 50 megawatt (MW) Kincardine Floating Wind Farm, set to start construction off the coast of Aberdeen.
Equinor’s Hywind Scotland project also used only a small number of north-east companies.
Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse said: “It’s still early stage, I think there is huge opportunities to use some of the technology that’s been used in the oil and gas sector in the pas – bread and butter stuff that was used in the Ninian field and others in the North Sea at the early stages of the oil and gas boom.
“There is still an opportunity for this technology to be developed here and we have led in the demonstration in Scotland.
“But it’s been frustrating that the Scottish supply chain hasn’t been used more in past projects.”
Mr Wheelhouse said that despite the technology “maturing rapidly” Scotland could be at the forefront of the next wave of giant wind projects.
He added: “We’re not yet at the size we need, but we do know the direction we need to go down to achieve it.
“What is missing at the moment is an effective route to market for floating wind and that is in the power of the UK Government and we will certainly be encouraging them to think around how to innovate the current licences and power purchase agreements (PPAs), which actually supports bringing this technology to fruition.
“Floating in theory should be cheaper than fixed bottom offshore wind in the longer term and therefore if you follow the logic that is absolutely the space we should be in.”
Last month, a report by Strathclyde University said floating wind would “likely remain” in shallower waters without significant investment.
It said the sector needs UK and Scottish Government support if it wants to maintain “vital” renewable energy trade links with Europe.
It claimed that investment was desperately needed in the floating offshore wind sector
“to ensure the UK remains a global leader” in the deployment of the technology.
Asked if Scotland is up to the challenge, Mr Wheelhouse said: “I believe so, we know that the committee on climate change have also said that we need 75 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind at UK level and obviously given the share of UK seas that Scotland has, approaching more than half of the UK waters therefore that gives us a huge opportunity there.”